Legacy of 1916 is “two amputee states” and events which do not deserve to be celebrated?

This 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising has been an oddly damp affair. For all the great chatter about who was going to be in government by Easter 2016, it turns out that no one is. Possibly that’s appropriate for a most ungovernmently type of revolution.

The so-called Decade of Commemorations framed by the last Fianna Fail led government as having the potential to promote reconciliation is barely mentioned these days. The preparations have either been partial or a grand exercise in political caution.

For all the great revisiting the history of the times, the assiduous avoidance of controversy possibly leaves too much unsaid. Although Victoria White in The Examiner is not behind the door in laying out the most abiding failure from that revolutionary era, partition:

What partition meant to communities, such as the Presbyterians of Stranorlar, Co. Donegal, is silenced history. Imagine the shock and outrage they must have felt when they learned that the border was to shift them into the Free State? And all over again, when the Boundary Commission recommended, in 1925, that they be moved back into the UK, a recommendation that was ignored by both sovereign states?

My grandfather was the headmaster in the Robertson School, where he met my granny, a fellow teacher. They were Irish: they trained in Dublin. They bought their wedding-ring, which I wear, in Derry. They had cousins, the McCalls, who ran the Model Farm in Cork.

They could never have imagined that the border would come down like a blade. They could never have imagined, either, that they would be asked to learn Irish. I remember the bitterness with which this was recalled, but much digging has not yet dug up exactly what happened to them — did they leave their jobs or was some fudge cooked up?

Eighty-six percent of Donegal Protestants surveyed in 2001 were loyal to the Irish State — as opposed to 9% claiming loyalty to the North. But I don’t believe many Irish Protestants will celebrate 1916, a fact that has been whispered in several conversations I have had with other Protestants.

It is the first time I have ever identified myself in any way with ‘the tribe’. And it’s not good. But I can’t deny what I feel, which is that the military campaigns that opposed each other, and which created the Irish State, have left behind two amputee states and do not deserve to be celebrated this weekend.

Without the mutual framing of the Decade of Commemorations – and the possibility of pulling Unionist and Republican histories into a single pluralist space – Partition defines the nature of the official celebrations, and the various distances felt by those in Northern Ireland.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • EddieWhyte

    Surely the partitioning of a small island that had both fought for and voted for its indepence is the silenced history here?

  • Neil

    This 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising has been an oddly damp affair.

    It hasn’t happened yet.

  • barnshee

    The prods are missing a trick –Celebrate the action(s) which affirmed their attitudes of 1912,concreted partition and produced the prophesied “rome rule” state -missing a trick (not for the first time)

  • Thomas Barber

    “I love my country. I’m grateful that I live in the Republic of Ireland. I wouldn’t like to be a ‘British subject”

    Says it all really.

  • eamoncorbett

    One of the bad effects partition has had on the Protestant and Catholic population of Donegal is that they have to travel all the way to Galway for cancer treatment in buses that have to stop at regular intervals because of the nature of their illnesses. In this so called progressive and enlightened era of European co -operation this scandal still exists . It is high time treatment was provided in Derry for these people so they that they don’t have to endure these journeys.

  • the rich get richer

    Ah ! If Only the British had been nicer to the Irish.

    Ah ! But that was not the way it was .

    If only “some things had been done differently or not done at all” (I paraphrase the British Queen)

    The British were never going to get it right for the Irish……Thats not why they were in Ireland.

    We were where we were and we are where we are….Its where We Go that we can effect………

  • John Collins

    Exactly. There was always going to be partition, one side wanted to remain British and down here we certainly did not and had shown that right back to the time of O’Connell’s monster rallies.

  • Greenflag 2

    Two amputee states ? Perhaps but one of them got up off it’s butt and after much trial and error finally managed to succeed as an Independent state . The other has finally after 95 years come to accept that it can only walk erect and survive economically and politically if it continues to get the support of both it’s neighbours and the EU .

  • mickfealty

    Eddie, that story has been played out in major key ever since.

  • EddieWhyte

    Not by Victoria White it hasn’t

  • Tochais Siorai

    It’s a thoughtful, well written article. The effect partition had on border Protestant communities is often overlooked and they were left in a minority on both sides in most cases and it was often a tipping point to the critical mass of numbers becoming too low to sustain the community. A boundary commission which did the job it was intended to do might have alleviated the problem a bit but there would still have been a barrier soemwhere.

    As an aside, the actual boundary commission recommendations would I think have placed Arlene Foster’s family farm in the Free State. So maybe in some parallel universe where the border is slightly different, Arlene, and not her fellow border Protestant Heather Humphries from down the road, is the minister in charge of the Irish state’s 1916 commemorations.

  • barnshee

    As long as the treatment is paid for I am sure the service can be delivered

  • tmitch57

    Ireland is not a small island–if you look at the set of all islands, Ireland is probably bigger than 95 percent of them. Hispaniola and Brunei are also partitioned.

  • tmitch57

    Ireland only succeeded economically once it had abandoned the autarky that had been practiced under De Valera and FF. Sean Lemass abandoned a failed policy and made Ireland into an agricultural exporter to Britain and Europe. Northern Ireland is not a state, but rather a region or “country” within a larger state. It functioned reasonably well until the shipbuilding industry took a major hit. The same could be said about Scotland not being able to succeed on its own economically. Hopefully, if the Scots do vote for independence they will have learned from the Irish experience.

  • Barneyt

    Plenty north of the border that didnt want to be under britsh rule…and still dont.

  • Saint Etienne

    The first instigators of physical partition were the IRA and it’s picketing of southern businesses who did business with the 6 counties. An irony then, and a continuing one as Republicans concentrate on ‘partition’ as the bogeyman.

    On the subject at hand, it’s an interesting one not far from most Ulster unionist family histories in some way given the mass migration leading up to and post partition.

    Here’s the thing though – instead of putting this marginalisation down to an historical event with a mixture of political ruefulness and divided sympathies – perhaps emphasis would be better directed at ways in which such marginalisation can be reversed?

  • kensei

    Or you know, you could just sort out sensible reciprocal arrangements on health and education.

  • John Collins

    From what I can understand the Boundary Commission Talks were sabotaged by the British and NI representative and not by Eoin McNeill, the Free State representative. The talks were supposed to be confidential, but they were leaked to newspapers by our friends. If Protestants in border areas were, or are, unhappy with the eventual outcome they should reassess the performance of those who should have been looking out for their interests.

  • John Collins

    Your last paragraph is absolutely spot on. Though divided, there are areas of mutual interest where we are better working together. We cannot undo the mistakes of the past and there is no country or administration that has not made mistakes.

  • Greenflag 2

    Some partial truth in your above but some misleading . Political success and survivability as an almost independent state was the main priority for the Free State politicians and they had to ‘survive ‘ during WW2 which was no mean feat of the then government . Ireland was exporting agricultural products to Britain from as early as the 17th century and even during the Famine while a million starved to death . Both British and Irish agriculture came under pressure from New World cheap food prices as the new agricultural producers opened up new land resources in the USA , Australia , South Africa etc from the 1840’s . For Irish and British farmers the EU guaranteed prices which enabled agriculture to develop and increase production.

    As to NI functioning reasonably well ? That would depend on where you were in NI and on which side of the constitutional and political divide . Economically both parts of Ireland suffered from lower economic growth in the period up to 1939 than most of the smaller countries of Europe at the time . The loss of shipbuilding was a major blow to the local NI economy I agree as were the smaller supply companies which fed off that industry such as engineering etc .

    Scotland’s path to Home Rule was stymied by the Darien Ponzi scheme and the ensuing bail out . The price for bail out was an end to the Scottish Parliament . I would not presume to suggest to the Scots whether or no they go for independence . All I would say is that in 2016 they don’t face the might of the British Empire but instead they face the same ‘enemy ‘ that people all over the western world and other parts beside face . USA Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders refers to them in the collective . It’s interesting that his message is being heard by many in the USA . We’ll see how the message resonates in England and Scotland and eventually Northern Ireland . People in the Republic have you might guess had a lesson in who their elected politicians are beholden to.

    Still we can’t have a world where elected politicians get to print as much money as they like can we . Or can we not ? Another thread perhaps .

  • Skibo

    Mick I find it hard to see what the heading has actually got do do with the story you wrote.
    “Legacy of 1916 is “two amputee states” and events which do not deserve to be celebrated?”
    1916 was not fought to achieve a 26 county Republic but a 32 County Republic. The only grouping in Ireland willing to fight for partition was the UVF.
    Following partition the story changed. The UVF morphed in the view of Unionists from an illegal armed private group to a battalion of the British Army while the Easter Rising is seen as a rebellion by the troublesome Catholics yet the leadership was well represented by the Protestant religion.

  • Reader

    Other versions of the story are available…
    The recommendations were an improvement on the actual situation in that they had fewer people on the wrong side of the border. However, the leaks caused the not-an-inch brigade to have kittens on both sides of the border.